FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the WTO Comes to Montreal

by PAUL BEAULIEU

Perhaps the first time most people heard of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was in November 1999, with a meeting of the WTO in Seattle accompanied by protests. The protests certainly made for some colourful media coverage, with much talk of ‘violent protests’ (little mention of violent police) and news headline catchphrases like “The Battle in Seattle”. But there was also, for the first time in North America, some serious discussions in the media about what the WTO is, and what it does. People began to note that the WTO can decide that health, environment, industrial and social policies adopted on our behalf, by our governments, are trade barriers that must be struck down. People in the United States learned, for example, about a WTO ruling against a U.S. law aimed at conserving endangered sea turtles- a ban on shrimp caught in nets without a turtle-exclusion devices.

Fast forward to 2003. In Montreal, a WTO mini-ministerial meeting has been hastily convened by Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, for July 28-30, to prepare for this year’s big meeting in Cancun, Mexico. And, once again, protests are being planned in the hope that the resulting confrontation will put the WTO on the national agenda.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Considering the importance we attach to our economy and to our public services, you’d think that a far reaching global agreement affecting the way we work and do business would have been discussed seriously what is supposed to be democratic society before we’d signed on to it. No such luck. The WTO came into existence in 1995, but how many people in North America had even heard of the WTO prior to the Seattle protests?

Since its 1995 inception, the WTO’s guiding principle has been that it’s unfair to make a company wanting to do business in another country adapt to that country’s requirements. Instead, the country must be made to adapt to the company’s requirements. Now Canada is negotiating with other countries on reducing ‘trade barriers’ on services. This means getting rid of foreign ownership limitations, local hiring requirements, and restrictions on profit repatriation and capital flight. In other words, transnational companies are to be given more power and fewer responsibilities – the ‘free market’ in the name of ‘free trade’.

The worst thing about WTO rules is how they lock us into this free market model of economic development. It’s one thing to elect a government that believes in free market policies. It’s quite another to be bound to such policies, so that electing a more interventionist government makes no difference. Who ever asked the citizens of Canada if they wanted to live under WTO rules? Who are the people who come up with these rules, and in whose interest? These are questions that need discussion. Instead, the government of Canada is embarking on another round of WTO negotiations, without consulting the people of Canada.

In such a context, protests against the WTO of the sort that will happen in Montreal July 28-30, are a messy, inconvenient necessity.

PAUL BEAULIEU is a Montreal-area theatrical activist working with Montreal Mobilization Against the WTO. He can be reached at: pinadeau@planet-save.com

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail